Come As You Are

An empty Johari window, with the "rooms&q...

An empty Johari window, with the “rooms” arranged clockwise, starting with Room 1 at the top left (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If my friends working in the public and private sectors are to be believed, there is a crying need for some coaching for key leaders so they are better equipped to win the hearts, minds and commitment of their staff at every level in their organisations.


Seemingly there are key leaders out there who think that – despite headcount reductions and pay freezes – X per cent fewer staff will remain motivated when pressed to produce ever greater outputs.


Looking back at some old material on inspired leadership I was struck by the attitude shown by Frank Douglas, in charge of Human Resources in Transport for London (TfL).  Interviewed in July 2010 by People Management magazine the African-American ex-pat noted:


“In an age of austerity, when you can’t pay people more you have to focus on career development


He goes on to make the point that the first winner of television series ‘The Apprentice’, Tim Campbell, used to be a marketing manager at TfL.  The organisation should therefore be asking “How many more Tim Campbell’s do we have out there?”


Interestingly, Frank’s career trajectory also neatly illustrates the principle that the drive for development comes from within.  He says:


“The US is a highly mobile society, where people vote with their feet…I’ve had a self-managed career.  I aspired to be head of HR and took the jobs that would give me experience towards that goal’.  He adds towards, the end of the article, ‘the challenge of diversity is about understanding people and managing conflict”.


He might have added that people are complex, and that the issues of diversity affecting them may not be immediately obvious (for instance a disability may not be observable; their religion might also not be noticeable).  The principles behind the Johari Window (in which some aspects of an individual’s identity are not visible to others) are applicable here.


Coincidentally, in July 2011 People Management magazine took a look at sexual orientation in the context of diversity leadership.  David Shield’s, the director of workplace programmes for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organisation Stonewall notes that:


Organisations have generally become more diverse, but you don’t often see gay people in senior teams, just like you don’t see gender or ethnicity in diversity at top levels …Women or ethnic minority men may fear a double dose of prejudice…which means that lesbians or black gay men are more inhibited about coming out than white, gay men”.


If that trend is indicative then there is still some way to go towards establishing fully equal and diverse workplaces.


I suspect that ensuring the employment environment has little or no scope for inequality establishes a foundation that is good-for-business.  In that climate a coaching strategy that encourages staff to develop their careers in fulfilling directions would deliver productivity benefits to the organisation and self-esteem benefits to the individual.  Happy staff are productive staff.


Underpinning the positive environment and the development strategy should be recognition of the value of the whole person, regardless of their age, disability, ethnicity, gender, orientation, or religion.


Organisations are missing a trick if they do not recognise the distinctive contributions that their diverse workforce already makes.  Those employees have real potential to develop further, in a supportive environment.   If more managers were keen to acquire coaching skills they might just be the catalyst to speed that development up.

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